Pass the Veggies: How Lupus Led Me to Give Up Meat

Pass the Veggies: How Lupus Led Me to Give Up Meat


Sushi is one of my favorite foods, and I used to indulge in a great steak every so often. Surf and turf was something I truly enjoyed, especially if lobster was involved. All of that changed once I was diagnosed with lupus.

One of the first things to go was pork. I didn’t think much about it, to be honest. Out of all the choices for flesh, it was the one I ate the least. When it started tasting like sawdust, I initially thought it just wasn’t seasoned properly. I gave it a shot a few more times, but each time it was awful, so I said “no more.”

All of a sudden that “great steak” was causing stomach problems. I spoke with my doctor, who said bison was better anyway. I thought she was crazy. I needed beef, not buffalo. (I even did a funny video on it.) I didn’t like bison, either. I tried grass-fed, hormone-free, steroid-free, home on the range, land of the free beef so I wouldn’t have to give it up. I’m kidding, but I did look for the cleanest beef possible so I keep eating it.

No matter what kind I tried, though, it would cause me more pain than it was worth. So I gave it up, believing that I still had sushi and chicken. Ditching pork and beef meant I had to substitute something for them, of course. I started experimenting with vegetables that I’d never tried, I was adding more beans, lentils and grains as well. I found I was actually feeling better.

I decided I could be happy without those meats. Who needed them, anyway? But I became tired of eating chicken. And forgoing beef and pork meant that eating out was a problem, too. I began to cook more at home, and discovered that chopping was actually therapeutic. I would often chop way more veggies than I was going to eat, but it inspired new recipes.

Living in Florida, it was easy to get fish from the wild, which is the best kind. No farmed fish for this girl, so I was buying free-range chicken and things were good.

Then I started getting heartburn when I ate anything that was born — other than eggs. I tried an experiment to see how I felt. First I ate chicken and fish, and then, for the next few days, nothing but veggies, grains, beans and nuts. No heartburn. I thought it was a fluke, so I tried it again. Heartburn, tummy issues, pain and other problems. So I decided to become a vegetarian.

This lasted for several months, until I moved abroad. I went to a doctor here about how to regain weight because lupus had dropped me from 170 pounds to 109 in three months. At a hair under 5’8,” I felt like I was waif-like, and I didn’t like it. The doctor said you have to incorporate animal protein. I was almost relieved.

I really wanted some chicken, and this gave me the perfect excuse to try it again. Maybe the doctor could fix the tummy troubles if they cropped up once more. For a while, eating chicken was OK, or I would suffer through the tummy issues. I got up to 130 pounds. I celebrated the victory on the phone with my family, and even posted the scale numbers on my Facebook page.

Then the chicken, which was on shaky ground to start with, turned on me. It was already causing heartburn and tummy aches, and then it started to taste like sawdust. Again I thought it wasn’t seasoned properly, so I made it myself . . . Sawdust. Then I went to a popular place that sells great wings . . . Sawdust.

So, I am back to being a vegetarian and down to 116 pounds. But I am embracing my new figure. And I’ve been really enjoying finding new ways to make tasty, meatless meals.

Have you ever considered becoming a vegetarian? Thanks to lupus, I actually think I am a much healthier eater. And it manifests itself in a lot more high-energy days for me.

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Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.

10 comments

  1. Hi Kellie

    I have seen quite a bit about how going vego (sorry Australianism) can help with Lupus, and have thought “Yeah, Yeah, Whatever”.

    However, reading this piece has changed my mind, a lot of the things you are saying, my wife has said to me, so we are going to change our diet accordingly. We are going down the Pescatarian way as we love our fish.

    Thanks as always

    Eddie

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hey there Eddie, Yes, what we eat really does matter and I’m glad you’re going to opt for something a bit better. Here where I live in Thailand, I am land locked so fish is a little….ummm, fishy in my opinion lol When I lived in Florida I was a little more open to it but now I just find myself wondering if its farmed or fresh. There are a lot of great recipes out there for becoming Vego (I like that, short and sweet). I hope the transition makes for better days healthwise for both of you.

  2. Robin says:

    Great column Kellie! I’ve been toying with becoming a vegetarian. The hardest thing for me to give up is bacon. I would love to see some of your recipes!

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Someone mentioned liquid smoke will make anything taste like bacon….I just keep wondering, how do you liquify smoke? Is that like flavored, captured evaporated water or is there some weird process lol Things that make you further wonder what the heck you’re eating (I got all sidetracked didn’t I? We’ll blame lupus brainfog) I will be honest, making the decision hasn’t been the easiest. I have to realize that there are no real substitutes for meat and if you’re going to do it, you’re going to miss those things. I say everything in moderation and if you can forego everything else, ever so often a little bacon could be a treat.

    • Pat Sommer says:

      Bacon is addictive! It’s not the pig that’s so tasty, rather the curing. Veg versions can hit the spot -minus nitrites.

      • Kellie McRae says:

        Hi Pat, Fortunately for me, bacon was never my pork cut of choice. Ham with eggs, ham for the holidays instead of turkey and an awesome over the top ham sandwich were my things. I am envious of you all, I would love to put some bacon bits on my salad and chomp down on a great ham sandwich or even add a few chunks for seasoning into a soup….but my body says no and it seems to be in charge no matter what I say. I will have to try the veg versions and see what I think.

  3. Brandie says:

    This is an interesting article. I don’t eat beef or pork because they made me sick to my stomach. But I have thought of giving up meat completely. I have to consider my whole family because I am a mothe.

    • Kellie McRae says:

      Hi Brandie, The entire family will benefit from more fresh fruits and veggies but I will say this, my sister has adopted this lifestyle and she has 3 kids and a hubby who are all meat eaters. She prepares their meals with meat and fresh veggies, grains and such as side dishes. When she fixes her plate, no meat, when she fixes theirs, they have meat. It’s a win for everyone. Also, I can tell you for me, there have been times when I was just like, I really want to chow down on a burger or some bbq wings, I have not found anything to take the place of the wings but I am learning that while they don’t taste like what I want, there are things that fill me up as if I had meat. I have come to truly appreciate a portobello mushroom and casseroles are becoming a staple. I won’t tell you that it has been an easy transition but my body definitely appreciates it more.

  4. Alazne says:

    I think this whole diet thing is very confusing. Paleo or vegetarian? Grains and dairy out? I wish there were some studies done on this….

    • Kellie McRae says:

      I agree, it can be quite confusing but the one thing I keep in mind is each of us have a different body, a different battle so what works for one person isn’t necessarily the best thing for the next person so studies can tell us if the food is nutritious and what it offers but just like some of can tolerate lactose and some can’t the real test is one you do yourself. I kept a food journal at the start and took note on how things made me feel. I learned how long it takes the body to digest certain things, i.e. it takes the body 3 days to digest red meat so if I had some, I would not introduce any other meats into my body to see how I was affected. I noticed that as long as I stuck with plant based items I felt better and my pain was not as bad. I kept chicken in my diet the longest and then I started having tummy issues whenever I would eat it and to make sure, I would allow my body to digest it then I would try it prepared a different way. It is a process that requires some dedication but I now know that if I indulge on certain things, I am going to pay even before I put it in my mouth because of having done this process. I can tell you that my fatigue is way less, I rarely take a nap during the day anymore, I had a week where I felt pretty close to normal, that was both amazing and a little cruel (I wanted more than a week, I thought I was going into remission) and I don’t have as much brain fog. I know that everyone again is going to be different, this is just my experience. If you decide to go for it, like I said, I recommend a food journal and break it down to the minute. I would drink coffee, I would put down the kind of cream and the amount, the kind of sweetener and the amount and make changes to that just to see. I would only introduce one new thing so I knew it was that one thing. It took some time but I am happy I did it.

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